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BPC’s Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force Targets Urgent Crisis

Washington, DC – The United States continues to grapple with a severe youth mental health and addiction crisis profoundly intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40% of teenagers report struggling with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Alarming increases in youth suicide attempts, self-injury, and drug overdose underscore the urgency of the situation.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force will develop evidence-based, actionable policy recommendations for Congress and the administration.

The following individuals will serve as task force co-chairs:  

  • former Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) 
  • former Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) 
  • former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) 
  • former Rep. & Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) 

 Task force members include:  

  • Noopur Agarwal | Vice President of Social Impact, MTV 
  • Jim Carroll, JD | Former Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy 
  • Sandy Chung, MD | Past President, American Academy of Pediatrics 
  • Kana Enomoto | Former Acting Administrator, SAMHSA; Former Senior Advisor, Dept. of Health and Human Services 
  • Patrice Harris, MD | Former President, American Medical Association 
  • Amy Kennedy | Co-Founder, The Kennedy Forum 
  • Angela Kimball | Senior Vice President of Advocacy & Public Policy, Inseparable 
  • Vikki Wachino | Former Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 

Youth advisors contributing to the task force include:  

  • Michael Schmitt | Social Media & Communications Coordinator, HOPE Sheds Light 
  • Sophie Szew | Student, Stanford University

It is crucial to have partners in Congress engaging in the conversation on youth mental health policy and substance use. Alongside the task force, BPC also welcomes the insight from our honorary congressional working group:  

  • Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) 
  • Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) 
  • Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)
  • Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-CO) 

Despite an escalating need for youth mental health and substance use services, America’s young people face a behavioral health care system that is grossly understaffed and does not work well for them. The task force will build a national strategy to reduce the prevalence of undetected and unaddressed mental health and substance use problems in youth. Through their work, the task force is committed to championing pragmatic, bipartisan solutions that will spearhead comprehensive policies that prioritize the well-being of the nation’s youth.

“Our children deserve all that we can give and more. We can empower our youth, by giving them the tools and support they need to overcome challenges of mental health and substance abuse. When we invest in America’s youth, we invest in America’s future.” – Val Demings

“The good news is that both parties agree that something must be done. No one will be able to fix our nation’s youth mental health and substance use crisis overnight, but we know we must act now to support our nation’s families.” Jaime Herrera Beutler

There is so much complexity in our health care system, from how many providers we train, to how and where they are allowed to practice, to how they are paid – and so little of it is designed with children and youth in mind. We need to invest in policies that will reshape the future of health care delivery for youth and their caregivers.”John Kasich

“We need to get upstream of these crises. On the heels of the opioid epidemic, we now have a rising generation of youth who struggle with more mental health and substance use than their parents.” – Steve Beshear

To follow along with the task force’s work, visit our website.  

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